It’s disturbingly common to hear on the news that a pedestrian was killed or seriously injured in a car accident in the GTA. In February, the former chief planner for Toronto, Jennifer Keesmaat, stated that the City is facing a crisis in terms of the number of pedestrians killed on Toronto roads. Ms. Keesmaat urged the City to make pedestrian safety a top priority.
The number of pedestrian fatalities, already at eight in February 2018, represented a marked increase from 2017. These deaths involved people of all ages, including a 5-year-old child who suffered fatal injuries after she was pinned between 2 vehicles while leaving school with her father. Another of these deaths involved a 74-year-old woman who was struck by a Canada Post truck at Eglington and Birchmount Rd., and subsequently died from her injuries. Tragically, the number of pedestrian deaths continued to rise in March and April, and include another child, an 11-year-old boy who was struck by a car and killed while crossing a street after school, near Kennedy and Steeles.
Ms. Keesmaat blamed Toronto road design for many of the fatalities. However, Toronto police superintendent and unit commander of Traffic Services, Scott Baptist, asserts that a failure to pay attention to the road and to other road users is the reason for many pedestrian accidents.
At a U. of T. panel discussion in February, Toronto’s General Manager of Transportation, Barbara Grey, stated that the City is considering changes for problematic areas of Toronto and hopes to implement fixes before another pedestrian is killed. Of particular concern are long sections in Toronto’s inner suburbs that commonly have no pedestrian crossings. These blocks need to be broken up to provide pedestrians with a designated place to cross.
Also in response to the increase in pedestrian deaths, Toronto police announced a traffic safety campaign focussing on pedestrians. The campaign involved increased enforcement of traffic violations and raising awareness through education sessions and Twitter. Police tweeted about the dangers of crossing streets at mid block, rather than at intersections and traffic lights. However, this focus was criticized for placing most of the responsibility and blame on pedestrians, while absolving drivers of responsibility. Respondents urged police to focus on distracted and aggressive drivers who are the main cause of pedestrian accidents. Speeding, running stop signs and distracted driving were named as key actions that cause injury to pedestrians.
Superintendent Baptist asserted that all road users need to share the road and be part of the solution. Specifically, he said we need to pay more attention, slow down, put down our electronic devices and take out our ear buds, and look both ways before crossing the street.
Pedestrian fatalities are a serious problem in the GTA but in addition, many more pedestrians are hurt every year, often catastrophically injured, after being struck by a vehicle. In 2017, there were 1600 motor vehicle accidents in Toronto involving pedestrians. This year, on January 11th alone, 10 pedestrians were struck by vehicles and 8 of these collisions happened within a 2-hour period. One of these involved a woman who was hit by a TTC bus.
Of course, nothing can make things right after a person suffers catastrophic or life-altering injuries, or if a loved one is fatally injured in a motor vehicle accident. However, if you or a family member suffered serious injury and losses caused by a negligent driver, financial compensation can at least pay for needed rehabilitation treatments, lost income, family expenses and other costs arising from the injury. Accident victims are also entitled to claim for non-pecuniary losses such as pain and suffering, when chronic pain and other injuries undermines their enjoyment in life.
Sometimes pedestrians make an error in judgement that may have contributed to their accident. However, even in such a case, if the accident could have been avoided if the driver took due care, the driver may be held largely responsible for injury and losses sustained by a pedestrian. Municipalities are also sometimes at fault in causing a pedestrian accident, for example, due to poorly designed City infrastructure or a failure to properly maintain walkways, curbs and roads. And, if a pedestrian is injured as a result, the City may be found liable for the pedestrian’s injuries.
Determination of negligence can be complicated in pedestrian collisions. This is why it’s always a good idea to speak to an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer to find out whether you have a valid claim for compensation. Your lawyer can also make sure that you don’t miss any filing deadlines for making a claim for damages. It’s particularly important that you don’t delay in getting expert legal advice if your accident was caused by a municipal vehicle or faulty City infrastructure, since the City clerk must receive notice of your intent to make a claim within 10 days of your accident.